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August 26. 2012 8:13PM

Medics bring homeless man 'back from dead' in Sunday rescue from Merrimack River

MANCHESTER — A homeless man who went swimming in the Merrimack River on Sunday morning was found not breathing and without a pulse, authorities said.

“He was dead; we brought him back,” fire Capt. Scott Merrill said.

Merrill said paramedics and fire department personnel worked on the 46-year-old man and detected a pulse while in the ambulance headed to Catholic Medical Center.

Asked whether he expected the man to survive, Merrill said: “It could go either way.”

Police Lt. James Flanagan said the man was in “grave condition.”

The man's identity wasn't being released until his family could be notified.

Merrill said the man's heart stopped, probably from exertion from swimming, before emergency crews arrived. Bystanders or friends were performing CPR when the fire department arrived, he said.

Merrill said the fire department, which works with AMR Ambulance, has had a few cases this year where we “had a cardiac arrest or a heart's stopped ....that we've been able to bring them back.”

In this latest case, Flanagan said the man was “discovered face down in the water by two fishermen.”

He said the victim “was believed to have been part of a homeless encampment and had gone swimming and had fallen into some distress.”

Authorities responded to the scene at the boat launch near Northeast Delta Dental Stadium around 11:30 a.m. The gates opened around noontime for season ticket holders attending the New Hampshire Fisher Cats 1:35 p.m. game.

“It's a tragedy; we hate to see it,” General Manager Rick Brenner said. “The fire department did a great job and it didn't impact our fans' ability to enjoy the game at the ballpark. Our thoughts are with the families of those involved.”

Marine Patrol responded to the scene to investigate.

Rodrigo Ojeda was at the river's edge at the boat launch with his dog Barley, a beagle/dachshund mix to play in the river about 90 minutes after the medical call. He said the river level was low compared to previous visits. Ojeda said he saw a Marine Patrol boat parked by the boat launch, but said, “I had no idea anything happened.”

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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